For Pat Bransford, MBA and CEO of Urban Tech, it would be impossible to say that her race and gender have not been a huge part of shaping her life, not to mention her expectations. She explains, “Both race and gender have differentiated me as a gifted person with responsibilities to give back to society.
I have not seen either as an impediment but rather as a reason to give back. I integrated Catholic schools in Washington, DC at the age of eight and continued to live a multiracial life being one of the first black persons to integrate Catholic University in 1957 and one of the first black persons to be hired by IBM in 1963. I saw these experiences as opportunities to carry on a tradition. In 1965, I married my white husband whom I met at IBM, and I am the proud mother of three biracial kids."
Pat Bransford and daughter. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Tunstull
So, what is Urban Tech? Well, Bransford explains, for more than twenty years, the non-profit she founded has created intensive education curriculums that “empowers young people in urban communities with self-awareness and education on core life skills." It focuses on “empowerment through life skills and creating safer schools where students communicate with enlightenment and respect for each other and themselves" whose mission states that “with the proper educational tools provided to all children, there is no limit to learning and no obstacle that can't be overcome in pursuing dreams." It has served over a million children across forty states, and its programs have been in more than 700 schools and community-based organizations.
Pat Bransford was born in North Carolina, where her father was a dentist and a civic leader in the town and her mother home-schooled when she was young. When Bransford was seven, they moved to Washington, DC, where her mother grew up, because her mother did not feel comfortable in the deep south.
She holds a Bachelors in Mathematics from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and a Master's Degree from New York University's Stern School of Business. She's the Founder and President of The National Urban Technology Center and the author of Urban Tech's online youth development and leadership initiative, Youth Leadership Academy, “transforming the conventional classroom into a multi-disciplinary, interactive learning environment." She's also the chief architect of the Community technology center movement, “resulting in a turn-key process for building state-of-the-art computer training centers throughout the United States.
How does a kid from North Carolina end up with such enviable credentials and changing the future via tech? Right from the get-go, Bransford has always been about problem-solving. As a kid, Bransford loved living in North Carolina. “We lived on a farm and I got a chance to grow vegetables and nurture animals. Growing up, I had a few good friends who also enjoyed solving problems."
She says she was naturally drawn to technology “as a way to get information needed to make decisions quickly" because her mother was a math teacher who often employed the use of word problems as a way of engaging her in learning.
Solving important math problems and pleasing her mother were the only things Bransford knew for sure she wanted to do when she grew up. She certainly has succeeded on both counts. Her first job out of college was as a math teacher. “I loved engaging youth to be creative and build problem-solving skills." Following two years of teaching, she joined IBM and focused on the power of computers to improve corporate profitability.
Pat Bransford, Sharon Brown, Debra Chase Martin and Alicia Blythewood. Photo Courtesy of The Black Socialite
“I am now focused on using the brain to solve societal issues leading to bullying and discrimination and at-risk behavior leading to disease. I would also like to find a way to counteract the addictive behavior created by iPhones and social media - behavior that is severely impacting the development of today's children."
Which brings us to the story of Bransford's brainchild, Urban Tech. She explains how this incredible company came to be. “Out of graduate school in 1994, I set out to open computer training centers all over the country to close the digital divide. My IBM training helped me to scale quickly and within 5 years I had opened 750 centers in all 50 states and trained 2 million in low-income communities with funding from the Department of Justice, Weed, and Seed. Each center had state of the art computers, high-speed Internet connections and skilled instructors trained by Urban Tech."
The work that Urban Tech does is vital both now and moving into the future because they “are now using technology to build an e-learning platform that has the capacity to distribute Urban Tech's curriculum to classrooms all over America, in order to create a kinder society and to train the new leaders of tomorrow for promoting safe and supporting schools. We believe that these solutions will be delivered to classrooms and mobile devices for 24/7 access." Bransford says it “gives me great pleasure that I have accomplished something critical to life on this planet."In addition to all of the other work she has done and continues to do, Patricia Bransford and her daughter have also created a new bullying prevention and safety course called, “Dignity for All." The program is interactive, has digital and off-line components, provides students with workbooks and uses storytelling, role-playing, and popular culture to inspire collaborative discussions, critical reflection, and goal setting. Dignity for All helps kids to feel safe and supported in school as well as, offline.
In terms of what challenges she's faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry, Bransford says simply, “I am sure there are many but I have focused more on goals than on barriers. [Since] I integrated Catholic schools in Washington DC in 1948, everything else seems easy."
Despite everything going on in the world today, she is hopeful for our world when it comes to issues of diversity. “I believe that as each and every individual experience. Different races, religions, nationalities and sexual preferences in schools and the workplace, attitudes have changed and erased discrimination and prejudice. Housing has lagged and unfortunately has separated classes of people, but as cities emerge as engines of growth, I expect continued integration at a community/city level and the elimination of more barriers."
As for the future, Bransford says she is “eager to distribute Urban Tech's new Dignity for All curriculum that educates teachers, parents, and kids on how to prevent bullying, discrimination and other aggressive acts in schools. We'd like to see every teacher in America is trained in social and emotional learning to support safe and supportive schools."
Bransford has one vital piece of advice for women of color when it comes to turning their dreams into their realities.
“Wear this racial ethnicity as a badge of honor with a mission to make the world a better place to live."
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